Google Cannot Give Details about Core Updates
Online businesses and site owners are constantly looking for SEO news and updates, especially regarding Google’s core updates. However, it’s unlikely for the search engine company’s announcements to get more detailed as they claim that they cannot give specific information about these updates. The search engine company also claims that they have the information internally, but they can’t release it to the SEO community.
John Mueller, Gary Illyes, and Martin Splitt from Google’s Search Relations team discussed this matter in the latest episode of the Search Off The Record podcast.
The topic started when Illyes expressed his frustration that Google can’t provide additional information in their core update announcement. He wondered why they bothered advertising basic updates if they couldn’t offer any assistance beyond encouraging people to read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Based on their discussion, it seems that every core update announcement will be a carbon copy of the one before it.
The Search Relations team at Google understands how frustrating core updates can be and wishes to offer more help to everyone affected by it. However, there is nothing they can do about it as of now.
Illyes said that the team responsible for core updates fully knows what’s in them. He added that the team knows everything when it comes to core updates or what its components do more specifically. And in most situations, the things adhere to the standards that they have been giving the SEO community for the last 20 years.
So, to summarise, Google encourages everyone to avoid buying links, create excellent content, and so on. Whenever they perform an update, they call everyone to adhere to Google’s standards.
Illyes also expressed that he wanted to give more information and guidance about what the core updates contain or the types of websites and content they will affect. However, at the moment, they cannot provide such additional information. What they can do right now is inform the public when a core update will take place and when it has finished rolling out.
In a nutshell, core update announcements are limited to when they have started launching and finished rolling out. That is how it has always been, and Google might not change the way they announce updates in the future.
Misunderstandings About Core Updates
Many people have misconceptions about core updates since there is very little information about them.
One of the misconceptions is that these updates are made to penalise websites. Illyes clarifies that this is not Google’s intention. He said that core updates are not a punitive measure. Instead, they are optimising their algorithms that assess the quality of a page, website, or piece of content. Google is just trying to provide users with better results.
Core updates inevitably boost some websites’ rankings, while others will see a negative effect. When a site is negatively impacted, it does not necessarily mean that it did something wrong.
When a website sees a negative effect after a core update, Illyes said that Google’s algorithms could have changed, and this is very hard to explain. He also said that it is harder for some websites to accept.
For instance, let’s say that a fully experienced publisher has been making content for five years and forms a solid follower base. Suddenly, they see a decrease in rankings, and their competitors start ranking higher because Google’s algorithms have changed. Such a drastic change is a tough pill to swallow for most people, and Illyes sympathises with the website owners and SEOs who have experienced this situation before.
If a website ranks lower after a core update, it does not necessarily mean that the publisher was producing terrible content. It could possibly mean that other websites were rewarded with higher rankings for creating better content. It could be that their articles provided more relevance to user queries and greater depth.
Relevance and Site Quality
In an SEO Office Hours hangout in 2021, Mueller explained in general what a Google core update is about. He mentioned that Google always tries to figure out a website’s relevance, and if one feels that there are problems in this regard, then they should isolate and address the issue.
Mueller said that things could get more difficult if there are multiple shops that are fairly identical. However, it is probably not a situation where one online shop has bad rankings while the other one has fantastic rankings. But one might make good use of user studies to identify the differences and the steps they could take to make it clear to Google that their website is particularly relevant.
He also mentioned that one should focus on their overall site quality. Mueller added that this is more than just text; it also involves the site layout and other factors.
He also addressed websites that experienced a strong negative impact after a core update. Mueller said that site owners and publishers should probably wait for the next core update to see changes in their rankings.
Mueller also said that Your Money Your Life (YMYL) websites or sites publishing content with sensitive information, such as those in the health industry, will face a more “critical” algorithm. He said that there is so much involved with such websites. They are not just random sites that publish stories and funny pictures but actually talk about matters where peoples’ health is involved.
Improve Content to Recover from Core Updates
In another SEO Office Hours hangout, Mueller advised SEOs to focus on improving website content instead of technical fixes to recover from a core update.
If website rankings drop following a core update, it indicates that the site is not as relevant as before to user queries. Therefore, one can’t improve their site relevance with technical fixes while neglecting on-page content.
Mueller notes that improving relevance is a holistic effort that can’t be achieved by focusing on a single problem. The easiest approach to get Google to perceive the website as more relevant is to improve the overall website, which can be done by making significant changes to the content.
When improving the overall site quality, SEOs can make adjustments to the ads on the page, the usability, and, of course, the content. Publishers and content creators can change the way they present things, the way they make information clear to the users, such as adding sources and so on.
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